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We’re learning more this afternoon about a rash of burglaries at local churches.

Genesee County Sheriff’s Chief of Investigations Jerome Brewster, tells WBTA that a pair of burglaries at the First Presbyterian and United Methodist churches in Bergen, may be related to five more church break-ins in Monroe County.

"It's apparent that the persons responsible are breaking in, looking for cash," Brewster said this afternoon. He has consulted with Monroe County law enforcement and says there have been similar methods of operation discovered in each of the investigations.

"There are usually, in churches, a lot of things that would have value - but they're not being taken," he says. "File cabinets are being forced open; doors to offices are forced open. And if there is any money there, usually in a collection box or something, the money is taken."

$1300 in damages was caused to the Bergen churches, and enough coins "to fill a mayonnaise jar about halfway" were taken from the Methodist church, according to Brewster. Another burglary was reported at a Village of Elba church on January 4th. Money was taken there as well.

A fourth break-in was reported in the Stafford hamlet of Morganville. A burglar broke into the basement and narthex (lobby) of the Morganville United Church of Christ. But Brewster doesn’t believe that crime is related to the others.

Tom Burns is the pastor in Morganville. He doesn’t think money was the motive, either.

"I can only think of one thing: that somebody needed to get inside, where it was warm," says Burns. "Our church isn't heated during the week - but they broke in the backdoor...and of course, when you come into the basement, you come up the steps to the narthex.

"They broke in that door,"
he continues, "and they would have seen, on their right, the switch for the furnace. And the furnace was running when we got there, which it normally wouldn't have been."

The burglar caused about $500 in damages at Morganville.

The possibility of an anti-religious motive was dismissed by both men. They note the lack of graffiti or generally reckless damages at the churches.

The alleged perpetrators in these crimes face charges of Burglary, Criminal Mischief, and Petit Larceny.

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